Did Kethis break Standard?


Something pretty special happened last weekend.

Deep into this Standard format’s shelf life, it was broken. Busted in half by a completely new archetype.

As you may already know, I was at SCG Richmond jamming Delver. My teammates and I ended up finishing 12th, which was just shy of our goal, but it was still an awesome weekend with Shaheen and BBD.  I played 4C Delver, while my teammates played Urza and Esper Hero. I think our deck choices for the event were fine and with a bit more luck and tighter play, we could have added another Top 8 to our resumes this past weekend. 

That said, while SCG Richmond was going on, so was the Standard MCQ on MTG Arena. Sadly with the Player’s Championship race taking place on the SCG Tour, I decided to skip it despite being qualified. When the dust settled 16 players emerged victorious in the tournament with qualifications for the MC, three of which were playing a brand new Standard deck brewed from the minds of Stanislav Cifka, Ondrej Straksy and Ivan Floch. Without further adieu, feast your eyes on potentially the new best deck in Standard: 

Putting three of the Top 16 players into Mythic Championship V in London with a brand new deck is just insane! You never see this kind of format shift so late into Standard these days, and I was pumped when I saw the results. This deck is really innovative and there is no doubt in my mind that it will continue to be a main contender in the format until rotation.

Let’s break down this deck card by card and talk about the role each card performs:

In what is at its heart a synergy deck, these are your enablers. They work to fill up your graveyard full of Legendary spells, which is essential to how this deck functions. Ashiok is also a nice maindeck hate card against Scapeshift and the mirror where being able to exile their graveyard is huge. It’s not obvious at first glance, but Ashiok can actually mill your own library and still exile your opponent’s graveyard, which makes it a particularly awesome enabler for this deck while also acting as incidental graveyard hate.

Kethis is the focal point of this deck. Not only does Kethis make all of the planeswalkers and creatures that your deck is built around cheaper — allowing you to amass a massive board state in a short amount of time — but it also allows you to cast all of your legendary spells from your graveyard with the help of its second ability. This allows you to have some extremely explosive turns, and can single handily rebuild your board position even after it’s been dealt with once. 

It’s obviously easy to describe the card a deck is built around as “important,” but in this particular situation it can’t be overstated. Cost reduction and graveyard recursion are two mechanics that have been inherently broken throughout much of Magic’s history, and this card has both stuck onto it. Just think about Legacy and Modern for a second, how much of those formats are dominated by reducing the cost of your spells or bringing back threats from the yard? This card is the real deal.

This is mainly your fifth through eighth copies of Kethis — yeah, it’s THAT good. You can also copy Diligent Excavator if you don’t have access to Kethis yet and want to get your engine churning. Lazav is a great tool that makes your deck extremely consistent. There’s just so much text on this card, it’s got a nice stat line to help defend against aggressive starts and makes many of your draws play out smoothly. 

Fblthp is the perfect early enabler that allows you to turn on yourMox Ambers and turn them into the broken mana acceleration we know Mox’ can be. Fblthp can also be looped with Kethis and draw you a ton of cards in the late game. This little guy hits the board early, and much like Lazav is a great chump blocker to help you stave off aggressive starts. You’ll often get to save a couple damage and cantrip early, and then bring him back for a card later on with Kethis. 

This card is just a great card that allows you to easily cheat on your mana. You can also get some free mana with Kethis if you have a bunch in your graveyard and it’s a card you can easily exile with Kethis’ ability when you want to be casting your more powerful spells later on. It’s also worth mentioning that if you haven’t noticed yet, this deck is requires some pretty extreme colour requirements, so having what is often a rainbow Mox is extremely powerful in the archetype. 

Oath of Kaya is honestly phenomenal in this deck. It provides early interaction that is going to give you a life buffer to get to the late game — which we’ve already seen work perfectly in some of the Esper Planeswalker decks from a few months back. Not only that, but it you can also loop Oath of Kaya in the late game with Kethis to burn your opponent out if you have one in play and one in the graveyard.

I don’t need to explain why Teferi, Time Raveler continues to be the best card in Standard. In this deck, it does absolutely everything you could ever ask from a cheap planeswalker. It slows your opponent down and stops their ability to interact with you at instant speed. Notably, the fact that Teferi also stops opposing Scapeshift players from making an army of zombies on the end of your turn with their own Teferi is very important to how the matchup plays out. Teferi is the ultimate speed bump for your opponent in this deck and it keeps you at card parity, much like Fblthp. This is an every-format-all-star — just keep playing it and keep winning. 

This is a really nice catch-all that is great in your deck because it acts as a virtual Plague Wind. It also exiles everything, so against some of Standard’s most difficult threats to deal with like Adanto Vanguard it pulls a lot of weight. It also allows you access to a card that answers an entire mass of zombies from Field of the Dead and is also able to be recurred with Kethis. Later in the game, you can establish boards that answer zombies over and over again, something that some of the other midrange decks in Standard really struggle with. 

Overall, I think that if you want to be climbing the Mythic ladder on Arena, this is the deck that you should be playing. It has a very resilient gameplan that involves the graveyard which is not that easy to interact with in Standard. This deck definitely requires some reps to play, so don’t be too intimidated if you aren’t getting it at first.

Keep at it and the wins will start coming, I promise!